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DC GOP: Independent Is Really A Democrat

Everyone knows Michael Brown is really a Democrat. The newly elected member of the D.C. Council spent a good chunk of the fall on national TV presenting himself as a surrogate for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Brown has run for city office twice as a Democrat. He's been a registered Democrat all of his adult life.

But he was elected this month as an independent. Under the District's bizarre law guaranteeing two seats on the council for minority party members, Brown's only path to victory required him to drop out of his party and pretend, at least for a few weeks, to be an independent.

Brown, more than any other D.C. candidate in memory, played it coyly--at community meetings, and even on his campaign literature, he listed himself as an "Independent-Democrat."

Now, the D.C. Republican Party has filed a challenge with the city's elections board, asking it to find that Brown is ineligible to serve on the council and to order a special election to fill his post.

"We believe it would be unlawful for them to certify Mr. Brown" as the winner in this month's election, says Charles Spies, the lawyer representing the Republicans in this challenge. The board is supposed to certify Brown's election next week.

Phony independents have run for council as independents before, but no one as closely associated with the Democratic Party as Brown is has tried this. Brown is the son of a former chairman of the national Democratic Party, and the Republicans--who had two candidates in the race against Brown, incumbent Carol Schwartz, who ran a write-in campaign, and Patrick Mara, who beat Schwartz in the GOP primary--argue that Brown's candidacy just didn't meet the legal standard.

D.C. law says that no more than three of the five council members who are elected citywide may be "affiliated with the same political party." Chairman Vincent Gray and at-large members Phil Mendelson and Kwame Brown are Democrats. At large member David Catania is a Republican-turned-independent and at-large member Schwartz is a lifelong Republican.

But what does "affiliated with" mean? Is it purely a matter of party registration? If so, Brown followed the law and withdrew from the Democratic Party on May 20, even if he did vote in the Democratic primary this February.

Or does it have to do with the candidate's beliefs and behaviors? D.C. Republican Party director Paul Craney says that's what the law means and he has plenty of evidence to show that Brown never really stepped away from his Democratic identity.

In all likelihood, the elections board will duck the issue and say that the law pertains only to party registration. But if the D.C. Council were to be remotely honest about this issue, it would start the process of scrapping the undemocratic--small 'd'--law that forces the hands of D.C. voters and pushes politicians into silly party switches that nobody takes seriously.

By Marc Fisher |  November 20, 2008; 3:19 PM ET
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It's a goofy law, but if you're going to have it, it should require rescinding your previous party designation further in advance than 5 months--at least a year, if not the previous election.

Posted by: ah___ | November 20, 2008 3:50 PM

Look Carol, you lost o.k. It is over, please go home. Get over it. You weren't even on the ballot.

Posted by: zippergyrl | November 20, 2008 5:34 PM

We now have a one party system in Washington, DC. When Carol leaves the Council nothing will get done. All the money will be wasted or stolen and the trash will not get picked up.

Posted by: Salsgiver1 | November 21, 2008 8:46 AM

Coming from a place with a similarly goofy law, Puerto Rico, where other parties get to add members in proportion to the number of seats over the 2/3 majority of the seats in any of the chambers of the legislature a party gets, I don't find DC's law too strange. Perhaps DC should actually add more at-large seats (I can already hear the howls of protest, but wait a minute before screaming bloody murder) and elect those seats on a proportional basis. I think the Republicans and Statehood Greens should actually have a voice in government.

Posted by: Kruhn1 | November 21, 2008 10:44 AM

That sounds unconstitutional.

Similarly, O'Reilly always says he's an "independent" .... sure.

Posted by: sacomment | November 22, 2008 11:54 PM

An independent voter is a United States citizen registered to vote, which is what all voters were when the United States began. There were no organized political parties until the election of 1800, when a political party took over the government and began the process of making it impossible for independent voters to run for office by passing laws at state level that favored political party candidates. As soon as independent voters, who now have the numbers to do it, overcome these state laws denying them ballot access as voters and candidates, we will re-establish free and open elections right here in the United States, and political parties and their corrupt politicians can go back to European politics where they came from.

Posted by: rbwinn3 | November 24, 2008 6:45 PM

The party of quotas: the Republican party.

Posted by: MarkT3 | November 26, 2008 11:53 AM

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